Thursday, May 27, 2004

Cleric's Arrest in U.K. May Have Implications In Berg Slaying


A radical Muslim cleric has been charged with trying to set up terrorist training camps on U.S. soil, in a case that may have implications for the Nicholas Berg investigation.

British cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has been linked to both the killer of Nicholas Berg and to an al Qaeda terrorist who used Berg's computer password in the United States.

Berg connectionsAccording to CNN, Hamza "faces U.S. charges of providing material support to al Qaeda and aiding a deadly 1998 kidnapping in Yemen in an 11-count indictment released Thursday."

Earlier Thursady, it was reported that the U.S. requested that the U.K. extradite radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Mazri, leader of the Finsbury Park mosque in London.

The charges against Hamza include hostage-taking related to a 1998 incident in Yemen, according to Reuters. Because the crime carries a possible death penalty, the extradition from the U.K. may be protracted or even end up being unsuccessful.

The sealed indictment was filed on April 19, 2004. Berg disappeared in Iraq on April 10. His body was found May 8, and the video was released May 11. Berg's killer is believed to be Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, leader of an al Qaeda splinter group that is coordinating some resistance efforts in Iraq.

Accused al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui attended Hamza's mosque, as did Richard Reid, the al Qaeda "shoe bomber." According to Newsweek (external link), Hamza headed a London cell of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror network.

Moussaoui and Berg met in Oklahoma, where Moussaoui was studying flying and Berg was attending college. Moussaoui used Berg's university computer password to check e-mail. The FBI questioned Berg in the U.S. after Moussaoui's arrest. (related story)

Hamza's Web site was recently banned by U.K. authorities for publishing a link to the video of Berg, an American civilian, being beheaded by a man who appears to be Zarqawi, CNN reported.

A conspiracy oriented Web site called jackblood.com reported earlier this month that the Berg video was uploaded from London. The report has been reprinted and the claim repeated around the Web. INTELWIRE has not been able to independently verify this report.

NPR and other mainstream media outlets have reported on the upload, but were unable to identify where it may have occured.

The arrest of Hamza has been rumored to be in the works for more than a year, according to a report on the extradition warrant published in the Daily Telegraph.

The report said the extradition request was based on testimony related to James Ujaama, a U.S. citizen who was charged with setting up a terrorist cell working in Oregon and in Washington state. He pleaded guilty to charges of aiding the Taliban, including with computer assistance and by sending at least one recruit to Afghanistan.

Hamza was not arrested at the time, although the UK has been fighting to strip him of his British citizenship. An Egyptian native, Hamza became a British citizen by marriage in 1981.